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Opening Plenary

Rediscovering Mercy
Monday, September 18, 2017

Anne Lamott

Mercy is radical kindness,” Anne Lamott writes in her enthralling and heartening newest book Hallelujah Anyway.

Lamott ventures to explore where to find meaning in life. We should begin, she suggests, by "facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves." It's up to each of us to recognize the presence and importance of mercy everywhere—"within us and outside us, all around us"—and to use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and more honest connections with each other. While that can be difficult to do, Lamott argues that it's crucial, as "kindness towards others, beginning with myself, buys us a shot at a warm and generous heart, the greatest prize of all." Lamott lauds mercy extended at the end of life and in bereavement that is the hallmark of hospice and palliative care; she is a genuine proponent. 

Bestselling author of Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions, Lamott uses spirituality, self-effacing humor and ruthless honesty to tackle life’s most challenging subjects. Alcoholism, motherhood, religion, bereavement: Lamott writes about loss without trying to sugarcoat the sadness, frustration and disappointment, telling her stories with honesty, compassion and a pureness of voice. There is a depth of hope and beauty in her work and fans of her seven novels, numerous autobiographical essays, and several non-fiction bestsellers say the author lifts, comforts and inspires.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss the concept of mercy and apply it to oneself, one’s work and one’s world perspective
  • Identify the challenges in today’s world that make extending mercy especially challenging
  • Describe the benefits of forging a deeper understanding of oneself and others

Anne Lamott
Author, Speaker and Teacher

Bestselling author of Bird by Bird, Operating Instructions and Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott writes and speaks about subjects most of us don’t like to think about. But armed with self-effacing humor – she is laugh-out-loud funny – and ruthless honesty, Lamott converts her subjects into enchantment. She wrote her first novel for her father; the writer Kenneth Lamott, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She has said that the book was “a present to someone I loved who was going to die.” In all her novels, Anne Lamott writes about loss – loss of loved ones and loss of personal control. She doesn’t try to sugarcoat the sadness, frustration and disappointment, but tells her stories with honesty, compassion and a pureness of voice. She says, “I have a lot of hope and a lot of faith and I struggle to communicate that.” Ann Lamott does communicate her faith; in her books and in person, she lifts, comforts, and inspires, all the while keeping us laughing. 

Ann Lamott is the author of seven novels, several bestselling books of nonfiction and three collections of autobiographical essays on faith: Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith and Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. Her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy (2017) was described by the Chicago Tribune as “a clarion call to the better angels of our nature.”